Dictionary defines the odd phrase or two
A DICTIONARY proves there is a word for every occasion, no matter how bizarre or obscure.
Whether it is the name for a person who has a creative idea that only makes things worse (neko-neko), or a woman who looks better from behind than from in front (bakku-shan), there is a word somewhere that sums up the complex thought.
There is areodjarekput - Inuit for the practice of exchanging wives for a few days, or mahj - Persian for looking beautiful after a disease. They are among the thousands of obscure words and phrases in The Meaning of Tingo, compiled from 280 dictionaries and 140 websites.
The favourite word of the author, Adam Jacot de Boinod, is Tingo from the Pascuense language of Easter Island, which means to borrow objects from a friend's house, one by one, until there is nothing left.
The former BBC researcher said: "I was working on Stephen Fry's show QI when I became interested in the wonderful foreign words that don't have direct translations into English.
"My interest became an obsession and I gobbled up dictionaries, trawled the internet, phoned embassies and tracked down speakers from all corners of the world. English is brilliant at naturalising foreign words, such as ad hoc or feng shui. I'd like to see some of my favourites from the book in general use."
He discovered that Albanians not only have 27 words that mean eyebrow, but also another 27 that mean moustache.
Words unlikely to be in a holiday phrase book include the Indonesian mencolek, which is to touch someone lightly with one finger in order to tease them, or how about the Colombian Spanish tragado como media de cartero, which means to be hopelessly in love - but an exact translation reveals it to be "swallowed like a postman's sock".
Visitors to Russia should not buy from a koshatnik, who is a seller of stolen cats, while the oddest job must be a kualanapuhi, Hawaiian for an officer who keeps the flies away from a sleeping king by waving a brush made of feathers.
Though it may be a Danish word from the Viking age, there are probably many drinkers worldwide who have suffered from olfrygt - the fear of lack of ale. Once satisfied though, they will be bjor-reifr, an ancient Icelandic word meaning cheerful from beer drinking.
The book only has words that could be confirmed by speakers of the language concerned, said Mr Jacot de Boinod. "A frustration in compiling this book has been finding wonderful words that I've been unable to verify, and so had to leave out," he said. "Age-otori for example, a Japanese word which supposedly means 'to look worse after a haircut' - I've been there."
The Meaning of Tingo is published on Thursday, 29 Seotember, by Penguin.
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